Are You Leveraging the Power of Plyometric Training?
By: Brandon Richey, B.S., CSCS
Owner: Brandon Richey Fitness LLC
Plyometrics are defined as exercises that exert maximum force in very short periods of time with the end goal being to increase power production. Plyometrics have at times also been characterized as “jump training,” but intensity levels can and should vary in plyometrics for the purpose of catering to the ability level of the trainee.
Power is defined as the rate of doing work. Essentially it involves the amount of energy that is consumed per unit of time. It can basically be summed up in the formula P=W/t.
Power is something that should be very attractive to both the strength coach/trainer and trainee. There is no substitute for power when it comes to competing in most every sport. Plyometrics gives us an avenue for producing that much needed element of power. Combined with effective weight training it is THE method for producing explosive power!
So what is power? Essentially, power is the combination of both strength and speed, otherwise characterized as force times velocity. So Coach BR why are you telling me all of this, right? Well obviously power is an essential element in performance. It is also an essential element in enhancing strength as well, or more specifically a different type of strength that a lot of us strength coaches refer to as speed-strength. If the name of the game is force production, then the implementation of plyometric training is exactly where we can find this.
In a nutshell, plyometrics are terrific and have been proven so when combined with a properly and effectively planned strength program to achieve incredible physical results.
Here’s a little history lesson. In the early 1980’s researchers Russ Polhemus and Ed Burkhardt offered substantial evidence that when combining plyometrics with a smart strength training program that the results of the participant would go far beyond just solely implementing a weight training program alone.
With the application of effective plyometric training along with an intelligent strength program we can better achieve the ability to produce force in a fraction of the time in order to enhance athleticism. So Yes, plyometrics are a pretty big deal.
Safety and Considerations…
First of all, if you are considering adding plyometrics into your strength and conditioning program you should consult a professional. Preferably I should hope that it would be yours truly, but if that can’t work then a qualified NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) should be the person that you type up into your Google search box.
Now having said all of this there are some things to consider before looking into engaging in a plyometric program. One big detail to consider is the age of the respective trainee.
First of all, the age of the athlete is important because if an athlete has not yet reached puberty then they should be discouraged from participating in any plyometric training associated with any high level of intensity. This is kind of a big deal because with young kids still changing in the early stages of development their bodies may not be able to handle the stresses of overly intense plyometrics. Once again, consult a professional before considering anything.
Secondly, in addition to this some other variables to consider would be lifestyle factors, personal level of fitness, and individual experience which should all fall under the umbrella of considerations before moving forward with a plyometric program. This is where the value of a credentialed strength coach (CSCS) can help you with the next plan of action.
Ok, so I’m about to get a little scientific on you with what plyometrics do to your body. The reason for this is to try and express to you what is happening and how it is beneficial to your strength and conditioning program. I’m about to spit out some strength coach lingo and just wanted to give you a heads up so that you can hang in. While doing this I’ll look to try to make it as painless and as brief as possible! So here goes…
Essentially muscular contractions involve two types of contractions which are made up of concentric and eccentric actions. The concentric action is where the muscle tensions and contracts by shortening the fibers of the muscle.
In the eccentric action the muscle tensions and lengthens by stretching. In plyometrics the combination of these two actions are effectively harnessed by combining the rate at which these two things occur within a certain action…which is going to occur in rapid fashion. The entire process associated with these actions is what is known as the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC).
So basically during a plyometric event we are trying to obtain what is known as the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC). The SSC occurs within three very rapid phases.
As previously stated the eccentric phase is initiated by lengthening and stretching the muscle, there is a brief period between (slight pause) which is known as the amortization phase, and then the concentric phase occurs by the muscle tensioning to shorten out of the eccentric phase. We can use plyometrics to further exploit this event as well as allowing the body’s nervous system to readily adapt for this through the implementation of plyometrics.
To optimize the plyometric event, the key is making sure to minimize the time in the amortization phase. If this brief pause lasts too long potential energy is bled from the plyometric event due to the loss of elastic potential energy. The quicker the turnaround is between the eccentric and concentric actions of the plyometric event the greater the gains will be in obtaining power output for the trainee during a given drill.
Once again you must have a sound level of absolute total body strength, core strength, and are able to recognize your own limitations before moving forward with this type of training plan. However, if you have met the criteria that I have presented here then you can start adding some serious pop to your training and you don’t even need any equipment to do it!
Now note that as soon as I’ve reached height I am starting to flex my body again in order to recoil like a spring for an additional jump. I am trying to exploit the SSC by shortening the amortization phase in order to acquire those power gains. Trust me, these will get your heart rate up too so you better have some cardiovascular conditioning if you expect to hammer out multiple sets.
The beauty of plyometrics is that they can just as easily be applied with the upper body as well. Yeah, I know you’re probably thinking man I don’t have any medicine balls to perform any rotational or explosive throws and tosses. Well if there are no medicine balls in your toolbox then no problem my young Jedi! Case in point.
You see the bottom line is that if you are in tune with your abilities and are innovative you can implement plyometrics for the purpose of acquiring the results in your training that you’ve always wanted.
After having trained athletes for over 15 years I will tell you that by combining plyometrics with a sound strength plan you will stand to smoke your athletic competition and achieve new PR’s faster than the Marlboro man can smoke through his lung capacity.
All joking aside, make sure that you take into account all the safety and considerations I’ve outlined here for you in this article if you are looking to significantly step up your strength and conditioning program with the addition of plyometric training.
With the combination of an intelligent strength and plyometric program you will stand to enhance force production for greater athleticism while enhancing your physical gains across the board. If you are a novice make sure you take the time to seek out a qualified coach preferably with the NSCA–CSCS distinction.
To learn more about Brandon Richey and his online coaching programs check him out at http://brandonricheyfitness.com/
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